Under the Dome

NC legislators reach budget deal but aren’t releasing details

More than two months after the new fiscal year began, N.C. House and Senate leaders said they reached a budget agreement late Friday.

At about 7 p.m., House Speaker Tim Moore emerged from a conference room with senior House budget writer Nelson Dollar and Senate budget writer Harry Brown. They declined to provide details of the agreement and how they’ve resolved sticking points like teacher assistant and driver’s ed funding.

“Our plan is to have a budget that we unveil first part of next week, and that we actually have a vote on this budget toward the end of next week,” Moore told reporters. “We’re not going to give any more details other than that right now. We want to make sure that our caucus members and the conferees have an opportunity to review everything before we let it out to the public.”

Moore said negotiators are still working toward an agreement on tax provisions. Senate leader Phil Berger said those “will need to be part of the budget” and will be resolved soon.

House and Senate leaders had earlier said they’d agreed to $110 million in new tax cuts but haven’t provided any details. Berger had said the tax cuts must offset a 30 percent increase in Division of Motor Vehicles fees in the budget.

“I am grateful to Speaker Moore and members of the Senate and House for their willingness to compromise, and their patience and perseverance in reaching this tentative agreement,” Berger said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to pass a final budget next week.”

According to Moore, both House and Senate Republicans will discuss the agreement in private caucus meetings Monday morning. Leaders will then have the formal conference committee – which includes a few Democrats on the House side – sign off on the deal before making the document public later Monday.

Work on the budget document will continue over the weekend, but Moore said all major policy and spending disagreements have been resolved.

Moore says the schedule will allow lawmakers to take a vote before the current temporary budget agreement expires next Friday. House rules require the budget document to be publicly available for at least 72 hours before a vote, and the speaker says that should allow “ample opportunity” for reviewing the details.

School districts across the state will be among those eagerly awaiting information about the agreement. House and Senate leaders had agreed to fund elementary teacher assistants at last year’s levels, but they’d disagreed on whether districts would be allowed to divert the money to classroom teachers or other needs.

And while both sides have committed to funding driver’s ed – currently suspended in Wake County and elsewhere due to the uncertainty – the funding source hadn’t been finalized as negotiations neared the finish line.

Campbell: 919-829-4698